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5G "5th Generation Mobile Technology"

Federal Communications Commission rules govern the installation of the 5G wireless communication equipment being installed in the City of Carlsbad and around the country. 

Quick links

FCC 5G plan
City policy on wireless communication facilities (cell towers)
FCC information on radio frequency safety


Questions & answers

Here are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions on the topic:

Question: What is 5G? 

Answer: 5G stands for fifth generation cellular wireless communication. It delivers data much faster and has greater capacity than previous technologies, using higher frequencies than 4G technology uses. Because these frequencies are easily blocked by objects, each antenna covers a smaller area than the devices used to transmit 4G signals, so they need to be installed closer together to cover an area. 

Q: How does the city oversee the installation of 5G devices? What policies apply?

A: The Carlsbad City Council has a policy on the installation of these devices, but the issue is really governed by the federal government, which has sharply restricted what Carlsbad and other local governments can do to regulate the communication equipment being installed for the new 5G systems being developed. 

Under the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was intended to foster the modernization of America’s telecommunications infrastructure, cities may not:

  • Deny an application to install a wireless communication device because of perceived radio frequency health hazards
  • Prevent completion of a wireless network
  • Favor one wireless carrier over another
  • Deny an application without documentation of substantial evidence 

In 2018, the FCC issued an order intended to remove barriers to deploying wireless broadband infrastructure. That ruling further tightened the timeframe in which cities must act on applications to install wireless communication equipment. 

The order requires cities to act on installations within 60 days for installations proposed on existing structures and within 90 days for installations proposed on new structures. It also limited the fees that state and local governments can charge for processing these applications.

Q: What did the FCC’s latest order say?

A: The FCC announced in a ruling published Dec. 4, 2019 that it had decided to make no changes to the federal limits, policies and standards on radio frequency exposure limits. 

This ruling said the FCC: 

  • Was making no changes to the federal radio frequency standards or emissions limits 
  • Declined to make special standards for radio frequency exposure levels for children 
  • Made a variety of updates to the rules on tests of emission sources and other technical issues

The order said that that no federal health or safety agency has expressed concern about the radio frequency exposure limits, and that the current standards test for effects on children as well as adults.

Q: What are cities doing about this issue?

A: Dozens of cities and counties across the country filed lawsuits asking that the FCC’s 2018 order be overturned. Those lawsuits have been combined into one case, which is now before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. 

The City of Carlsbad is a member of the League of California Cities, which is a plaintiff in the case. (The main case is City of San Jose, et al v. FCC.)

Q:  What about public health concerns? 

A: The Carlsbad City Council policy on the installation of wireless communication facilities in the city notes the FCC requires all wireless communication devices to comply with federal guidelines that limit exposure to these electromagnetic fields.

These exposure guidelines have been endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. Most wireless communication transmitting devices create maximum exposures that are only a small fraction of the limits set forth in the guidelines. 

Q:  Where can I find out more information? How do I contact the FCC?

A: The FCC addresses public health concerns over wireless devices on this document. That page includes links to the FCC’s consumer help and complaint centers. 

More information